On lacking expectation

I cycled to work this morning. It rained half the way there. The first half. Only the first half I suppose. I wasn’t expecting it to stop but it did.

***

After work, I had a plan to get a couple of trains to a distant part of town to try on a ski-helmet and pick up a pair of skis. After that I was going to get a train back and go and pick up the mattress.

***

I originally planned to leave my bike at work and swap it for the skis and possibly the helmet before cycling home. When I looked at the map and the local transport app at lunchtime, I discovered that I wouldn’t be home in time for the mattress if I relied on the buses to take me from A to B and B to C. I decided to take my bike and cycle from the station to the helmet, then to the skis and push the bike to the next station where a direct train would bring me to within 10 minutes of my flat.

***

Did anyone else notice the parts where I said plan and claimed it as my own?

Did all the alarm bells start ringing?

Did you feel the words “uh-oh” forming, ready to be released at a moment’s notice?

Did you see the chaos building up in the distance like the storm currently waiting to attack Berlin?

No? I didn’t either. I ran straight into it headlong.

I didn’t expect anything. But it expected me. I must be good company, or at least a regular visitor…

***

We had a fire alarm at work after lunch and before I could write my plan down.

Afterwards, I tried to get my work done so I could leave on time.

I almost did, too.

***

It wasn’t raining when I left my workshop so I packed my waterproof overskirt away in my panier.

It started raining just as I got outside the building. I don’t like being wet if it’s a cold kind of wet, and I especially dislike cycling in wet jeans, so I stopped and unpacked it.

I wasn’t expecting to spend time getting dressed once I’d left.

I didn’t expect the lift to be full when I got to the station so that I needed to wait for it to come up a second time.

I didn’t expect to miss the first train on my list of 3.

I didn’t expect the lifts at the second station to only go up when the train I needed to catch was a floor lower than the one I started on.

I didn’t expect the second lift, a lift I crossed a road especially to reach, to bring me back to the middle floor.

I didn’t remember my bike being so heavy when I decided to carry it down and up the next stairs I encountered.

I wasn’t aware that one station name in Berlin can actually mean 3 separate stations for the 3 types of train, and that they can be several hundred metres away from each other.

I didn’t appreciate having to visit each one of them to realise it.

I didn’t remember that the third train I wanted to catch only left once an hour.

I really didn’t like having to retrace my steps to get an alternative train from a station I’d already fought my way out of.

***

I didn’t check the map closely enough to know that the street I was looking for, started with one name and ended with a different one.

I didn’t realise that I cycled right past it without noticing.

I wasn’t paying enough attention as I started enjoying cycling along a straight cycle path without rain.

I wasn’t ready for the dark when the street lights stopped.

I wasn’t expecting my bike’s front light to be weaker than the wind-up torch I took on a night walk in 6th form.

I didn’t want to stop on the side of a busy but dark road with nothing but the dim glow of a fading dynamo to show where I was in order to check the map again.

I trusted Google when it recommended an alternative route from my current position when I finally felt safe enough to check.

I didn’t know, when I set out down the “dead end – pedestrian access only” road, that it would lead me into the middle of a very muddy field.

I didn’t know you could switch between the directions mode and the map mode without retyping the street name.

I didn’t know, once I was in a particularly boggy patch of field, whether it would be quicker to turn round and go back, or to carry on squelching.

I couldn’t imagine that I could be so scared of things that go bump (or knatterknatterknatter) in the dark.

I wasn’t expecting the torch on my phone to be so good.

I didn’t know in advance that I would rather cycle unnecessarily far by road, just to avoid a couple of hundred metres along a dark path through a woods

I didn’t know, when I set out from work, that I would arrive at the helmet man’s house later with the bicycle than I would have done without it.

I didn’t know, from the picture and the description, that the helmet would be just a smidgen too small.

I also didn’t know from the brief phone calls we’d had, that the seller would be so gracious about letting me traipse mud all through his immaculate house. “Relax! It’s all tiled and washable – it gets muddy every time I come in from working in the garden :)”

I didn’t know it would take me more than twice the time Google suggested to cycle across to the ski lady’s house.

I didn’t know that the skis would be so sharp that they’d take the paint off my handlebars when I rested them there.

I didn’t know that I would have such a problem steering when I got the skis into a stable position.

I couldn’t guess that the wind would pick up and join the pouring rain to slow down my attempts to get to the station while pushing my bike and balancing a pair of skis.

***

I didn’t expect to have to ask someone how to get into the train station.

I didn’t count on missing the last direct train of the evening and having to take three other indirect trains instead.

I didn’t think my phone battery would go down so fast, but I also didn’t think the last few percent would last all the way home.

I wasn’t expecting anyone to talk to me on the train, and when they did, I wasn’t expecting them to say, “don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve got a wife and a kid waiting for me” as we got out at the same station.

***

I didn’t expect to get home more than 7 hours and 22km after leaving work, 3 hours later than I wanted to pick up the mattress.

***

Despite everything, I still feel it was a successful day..

One on which I feel I definitely earned my sleep.

***

Talking of sleep…I wasn’t planning on sleeping on the floor again tonight, but then, life always seems to have more in store for me than I could ever imagine.

(And I wasn’t expecting the neighbour to phone and apologize, but he did – assuming the mattress man is understanding enough not to sell the mattress to someone else tomorrow, we’re all set to pick it up in the evening 🙂 – wheee!)

On having a day off

Sometimes I realise just how much I need to charge my batteries.

Today was such a day.

Today, I slept late, slept through the afternoon and am going to bed fairly early.

I feel this is a good way to spend a day. Not every day, but once in a while.

I hope tomorrow will be more energetic. I want to do a million things (more or less) before Christmas…but I need to be awake for them to go well so I see surrendering one day (today) as a necessary means to an end (or lots of ends).

🙂

zzzzzzzzzzzz

(Just so I can say I didn’t sleep through the entire day, I also sat on my rowing machine, went for an interview (maths help for a kid in the neighbourhood) and started sorting out (=facing) my finances :P)

On sleeping in 7 beds in 7 days

Lying here in bed, I realised that I’m in the same bed as I was in yesterday. That hasn’t happened for a while. A whole week in fact.

I left my house on Friday morning last week and slept in a different bed each night until I got back home on Thursday evening. I love that my friends and my family have room for me. I love that I have the means to travel. I love that it’s all possible.

And yet..

..I am glad to stop spinning for a bit.. even if it’s just a couple of days before I set off again.

On timing

Life could be so frigging easy!

And yet it isn’t.

Yesterday I received notification that I passed the project part of my last exam, and am invited to defend it on the 29th.

That means sorting out a presentation. It’s almost 2 weeks away. No problem.

Except.

I’m away for a long weekend at a glassblowing convention starting from Thursday morning. And I had 2 boxes of aquarium plants waiting to be planted. And I promised the secretary I’d translate 4 pages of text for her.

So. Yesterday I planted the plants. All the plants. All evening.

This morning, my alternater belt jumped off its wheels.

Yeehaah.

Or something.

This evening I’m going to work on the translation.

On why I think life is more like a pinball machine than a roller coaster

Choice.
Decisions. 
Ability to choose. 
At least some things. 
Sometimes.

***

As much as I hate to admit it, I quite like Ronan Keating’s “Life is a roller coaster” song. I don’t agree with him though. I think it’s more like a pinball machine.

***

Until a couple of weeks ago, I’d only ever played pinball on the computer, or on a board so old it actually had pins (=nails) in.

Then I went to a national pinball convention. I lost track of how many different machines I played on/with, but it was “many”.

I even had a go at the “classic” tournament. Classic because it features older machines. I wasn’t very good, but I also wasn’t the very worst (by quite a long way), so I was chuffed, considering that it was my very tournament on my very first day of practise.

Anyway.

On a roller coaster, you get into your seat at the beginning and “just have to ride it” until you get off at the other end. You have absolutely no control over what happens in between. Okay, you can control some of your reaction. You can probably choose to scream or throw your hands in the air or close your eyes….or not. You probably can’t choose whether or not to throw up afterwards. You certainly can’t choose the direction or when to stop or change speed.

Pinball is different.

Granted, there is a lot of chance involved, (pinball machines were even banned in the past because they were considered purely based on luck), and there are things you can’t control, like what the bumpers do when you hit them, what lights up when you go past, what the noises sound like, how many points you get for various sequences.

On the other hand, because you control the flippers, there’s also a lot of input potential. You have to choose to do something with that potential, and it helps to have the skill to achieve the desired effect (like getting the ball to go up the ramp or into one of the holes), but it’s there. If you don’t do anything, the ball does its thing briefly, then falls through the gap between the flippers and you die.
If you do manage to catch/hit the ball, you prolong that life. That gives you the next chance and the next and the next.

Sometimes, reaching a certain number of points, or activating certain areas creates something like a safety net. Even if you would normally die, you don’t, you get a new ball instead and can carry on playing. Even if you don’t achieve those bonus lives, you still have 2 further chances, or 4 depending on the machine. You can aim for things, learn what happens if you hit and if you miss. Sometimes you aim for the ramp and land in a hole. Sometimes landing in the hole is bad, sometimes it takes you to a different level where you unlock new possibilities. Sometimes you can die on that level, sometimes it catapults you back onto the first level with new energy and extra points, lives or abilities. Sometimes, regardless of skill and determination, the ball will suddenly take up nosediving and head down between the flippers without any warning, and with no chance to stop it.

Occasionally you get into a ‘Dauerschleife’, a routine of going round and round and round the same route: Flipper, bumper, bumper, light, flipper, bumper, bumper, light. To get out, you have to change something. Anything. Different angle, different strength, different timing. Sometimes that’s risky, sometimes it just feels risky. Sometimes the new ‘route’ is chaotic, sometimes it leads to a new Dauerschleife, sometimes it’s not exactly chaotic, but is continuously changing. That’s the most common. Change.

Occasionally, doing the same thing twice results in different outcomes, depending on what you did previously.

Occasionally you get bonus balls to be played at the same time, each whizzing round the board on its own mission, forcing you to split your concentration or risk losing both.

Talking of missions, some boards have a story line, a list of things to do, or collect, or hit. Some are less structured, preferring to offer differing musical notes, like a bell tower, or multiple colours – a kaleidoscope* of rainbow lights.

If you watch other people playing, you see an array of different styles and attitudes. Some tighten their muscles, stand gripping the edges of the machine, hoping somehow they can influence the course of the ball, or the reaction of the bumpers, with their tension. Others are relaxed, hardly concentrating, at least not noticeably. Some players laugh with the players next to them, some ignore everything around them. Some try to rock the machine, nudging it just enough to minimally change the angles of the board, the bumpers, the rebound, and steer the ball where they want it to go. Ohers go crazy, yelling and screaming and whooping and jumping…or kicking the machine.

In the end, no matter how you play, every ball ends up back in the box. Some live short intensive lives, some live long boring lives. The rest lead their lives somewhere in between. 

Every player dies eventually. Some just live longer, or more happily, or more excitingly than others.

***

I figure life is more like a pinball machine than a roller coaster. What do you think? What would you compare life to instead?

*collide-oscope?

On the news

“The news” (as a whole) keeps telling me that scary things are happening in the world at the moment. I’m not too keen on scary things so I plucked up lots of courage as I walked past the newspaper salesman and risked a passing glance at the headlines on my way to the station. According to the main local paper, someone has found something poisonous on a bus in Berlin.

It seems “the news” was right. That’s pretty scary. I hope whoever found the poisonous thing is ok and won’t need too much therapy/anti-poison-medication.

On personal nostalgia

I spent a fair bit of the last few days reading my blog from the beginning..

I had forgotten just how much life I could (and apparently did) fit into my days, and still make time to write about it.

I miss the old me.

On setting alarm clocks

DB: what time do you want to get up tomorrow?

Me: thinks mid-afternoon would be nice. Around 8?

DB, half an hour later: I’ve set the alarm for 7. You can sleep in the car.

On playing Chinese whispers

Some families play scrabble.

Some families are less interested in written words and so choose to play Chinese whispers instead.

***

DB came home from work really upset the other day. Apparently his father had told him that his (DB’s) mother had said his uncle (C) was in hospital and that his aunt (H) didn’t want to talk about it to anyone, and not to phone for a week or so.

[Background history: DB’s uncle had cancer a couple of years ago, which is now cured, or at least in remission]

We’d spoken to H and C a couple of days earlier and they’d both been fine. C had been tested and was doing well, no sign of anything wrong. They’d sounded happy and life was good.

Except if DB said that his dad said that his mum said that his aunt said that his uncle was in hospital then life can’t be good anymore.

lt must mean something serious like a car crash – or more likely in his case, a bike crash. Or a stroke/heart attack/other terrible unexpected thing. Or the doctors had reread the test results and changed their minds..

Panic was inevitable.

After DB’d asked me if I thought C’d be ok for the 57th time, and I’d had to prevent him booking the first flights out to see them a couple of times, I wrote  H an email.

Turns out H and C had just got back from a routine checkup (for H) but not yet eaten when DB’s mother phoned. Also, they’d agreed to meet C’s cousin at a certain time which meant they were in a rush to eat and get to the meeting point on time – and non-urgent phone calls weren’t at the top of the priority list. The cousin was due to stay for a week, so they would have time to phone once she’d gone home.

Panic over.

***

According to wikihow:
“The game goes on until the last person says whatever they heard aloud and the first person reveals the real message. Compare them and have a great laugh!”

In this case, the great laugh was more like a great sigh of relief.

***

On balance, and although I’m generally not a good player of any family games, I think I prefer scrabble…

On hurt feelings – part 2

I recently posted this:

“There’s a fine line between holding your tongue so as not to hurt other peoples’ feelings, and letting people hurt yours..

I’m too sleepy to be articulate right now, but I’m pretty sure I need to work on finding that line and learning to walk along it.”

I thought I’d written, albeit sleepily and inarticulately, about being fed up with letting people (= everyone who feels like it) trample on my feelings instead of putting up boundaries and telling them to be nice to me.

After a rough evening I had had enough, and had decided to start working out how to go about protecting myself from future verbal attacks.

Everyone who read and commented apparently took it to mean I regretted saying something mean to someone else….

***

Don’t get me wrong, I love that you commented, hey, I love that people read my posts at all! Thank you 🙂 You’re awesome and you make my day – I love it when there’s that special ‘pling!’ noise and that small orange dot appears next to the bell on my WordPress app 🙂 I love and appreciate that you tried to put yourselves in my position and help me. Really. I’m just a little bit confused about how I should’ve written what I meant, in order to be understood.

(St. Francis would tell me to aim to understand more than to be understood, but I like being understood too)

***

It’s not that I don’t have foot-in-mouth moments, because I do. I think everyone does. Sometimes I say mean things. Sometimes I’m cutting, sometimes I’m hurtful, sometimes it’s accidental, sometimes it’s on purpose. But it doesn’t happen often. At least not that often… I try not to let it happen at all.

More often, I hear people say mean things to me.

I am too polite to cover my ears when someone’s still talking.

I don’t even get up and leave when someone’s yelling at me.

Instead, I listen when people rant.

I very rarely rant back. I will probably argue if pushed and as long as no one’s actually shouted yet.

Usually I’m the one biting my tongue and not the one being bitchy. I’m the one crumpling up inside and trying not to cry in front of yet another person who believes that they ‘ate all the wisdom with a spoon’* and can tell me what I’m doing wrong. I end up on the receiving end of a lot of advice and back-handed compliments and bad-tempered yelling and condescending head-patting.

Some people are presumably self-confident enough to ignore the barrage, some people fire their own right back. Some people tell you you’ve gone too far. Everyone has their own survival strategy.

I make excuses and I let things slide.

Generally, I keep quiet. I tend not to say anything when things other people say and/or do hurt or annoy me. I stop functioning when people raise their voices. The natural response to stress is fight or flight. Mine is ‘roll up in a ball and hope it goes away’. It’s a strategy, but not a successful one. Hedgehogs aren’t known for winning battles with cars.

They are people and people are never perfect. I know that because I’m not perfect either. I tell myself they didn’t mean it, that they have too many other things going on, that they’re not good with words, that they’re having a bad day… and tell myself not to make things worse for them.

After a while of having my own feelings battered, the frustration-dam bursts and floods everything.

At this point I might snap at someone.

I regret the [hopefully few] times I’ve hurt anyone. Knowingly or otherwise. (Really. If I’ve hurt you, please let me know and I’ll apologise profusely.)

I also regret not telling people to mind their own business. I regret taking people’s rants to heart. I regret believing that other people have their lives worked out and that they have the right to tell me I don’t. I regret permanently putting myself on the receiving end of other peoples’ bad tempers and mood swings. I regret letting other peoples’ insecurity place restrictions on my dreams. I regret taking the time to listen to people let out their frustration on my ears. I regret swapping my priorities for those of those who shout loudest. I regret putting people on pedestals at the cost of digging myself into a hole.

I regret not being strong enough to walk away before I’m too weak to stand up  [by and for myself].

***

Now, if you’ve got this far (thank you :)) and have advice for building a protective shield around my feelings, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

‘Pling!’ 😉

***

* fantastic German expression 🙂

See also:
https://notthrowingstones.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/on-what-we-say-v-what-they-hear/
And
https://notthrowingstones.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/on-plans-mice-and-men/

On letting the side down

Dear amazing women of the world,

I apologise.

I apologise for letting the side down. Again.

I apologise for not being able to compare to your incredible standards of awesomeness.
Again.

I apologise for my lack of ability (and interest) to keep house the way houses are supposed to be kept. For my chaos. For the unpacked boxes. For my shortage of prettifying touches. For the wrinkles in the spread when I’ve made the bed in a hurry. For leaving the washing up out to dry itself. For not replacing the towels when I’ve put the old ones in the wash. For not completely filling the washing machine when doing a hot wash. For forgetting to take it out of the machine afterwards or leaving on the stand way longer than necessary. For not folding it neatly enough and for not putting it away properly.

For not timing my cooking to a regular mealtime. For forgetting to take the milk out of the freezer before the other one’s empty. For letting the apples rot in their box.

For arriving late and without my keys or paperwork or paper hankies. For missing my train, bus, plane, or for making people wait for me.

For my lack of elegance and sexy underwear and make up. For the fat I’ve accumulated over the last year. For the frumpy clothing I wear until I’m thin enough to warrant going shopping.

I could go on.

I won’t because you won’t get it, you perfect people, and the other ones, the ones that aren’t perfect (I’m assuming I’m not the only one, despite being told otherwise), already know what I’m thinking and feeling, because they, presumably, think and feel it too.

I’m pretty sure no one has to be perfect before they can start enjoying life, but you, you perfect specimens, you make it hard for the rest of us. You stand up there on your pedestal with people looking up to you and down to us and making comparisons. If I wasn’t spending all my time bettering myself, I might look for something to criticise. I don’t actually have anything against you personally, just against people using you as the standard, unattainable as it may be.

You know what though? If the ground was made of diamonds instead of mud, the diamonds wouldn’t be special and nothing would grow..

Love,
Jesska